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Marcus Smart needs to be punished, but were his actions warranted?

Feb 9, 2014, 2:44 AM EST

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By now, it’s probably old news to you.

Late on Saturday night, Marcus Smart, the star of the No. 19 Oklahoma State Cowboys, went flying into the expensive seats after trying to prevent a dunk and give the Pokes one last chance to for overtime in a game at Texas Tech.

A fan said something to Smart.

Smart reacted by shoving him.

Twitter blew up, the video of the incident was replayed hundreds of times and, before you knew it, Smart’s shove was the biggest story in all of sports.

There’s two conversations to be had here.

For starters, Smart needs to be suspended. He has to be. There is no way around this. He went into the stands and shoved a fan in response to what a fan said to him. That’s simply unacceptable, and Smart has to accept the punishment. Head coach Travis Ford knows this. Smart, at heart, probably realizes this. The suits running the Big 12 Conference know this. Everyone does.

Basketball games, particularly at the college level, are emotional environments. The fans are sitting right on top of the court, and it’s entirely too easy for something as minor as a shove to turn into a situation as ugly as the Malice at the Palace. The point that no one is making is that a minute after Smart’s shove, the buzzer sounded and Tech won. The fans stormed the court, meaning that an emotionally charged Smart was sharing court space with Red Raider fans.

Am I the only one that realizes how lucky we were that this didn’t turn into some much, much worse?

A point has to be made. There is a line that cannot be crossed, and Smart crossed it.

But that brings me to my larger point: We cannot judge Smart, the person, on this moment.

According to reports, what the fan said to Smart to draw his ire was just about the worst thing that an older white man can say to a young black man. Multiple people at the game and within earshot of Smart claim that he was yelling, “he called me a n*****“.

If you want my honest opinion here, that fan — who has been identified as Jeff Orr, a Texas Tech “superfan” – is lucky that the only thing that happened was a shove. And to a point, I actually give Smart credit here. People are going to fly off the handle about the shove, but before you start calling Smart a thug or say that his reputation is forever tarnished, remember this:

  • Smart is competitive to a fault. He does not handle losing well, and this loss was Oklahoma State’s fifth in the last six games. The Cowboys, picked to be a contender for the Big 12 title in the preseason, are now essentially down to a six-man rotation. Their season is spinning out of control, and there’s not much Smart can do about it.
  • Smart’s played some of the worst basketball of his career during this stretch, and was caught on camera curb-stomping a chair and leaving the bench, throwing a fit in a back hallway, in a win against West Virginia last month.
  • This was the second straight game that Oklahoma State lost in the final possessions. In this one, despite Smart being the lone bright spot for the Pokes, Ford opted to go to Le’Bryan Nash on the last two possessions of the game. Neither resulted in a bucket.

With all that going on, right when he realized that he was probably going to lose yet another game, he was (reportedly) called the N-word by an old white guy … and he didn’t react by throwing a punch or physically assaulting the guy.

He only pushed him.

How many people would have immediately started throwing haymakers in that moment?

If anything, the talking point here should be directed more towards the way that fans behave themselves at sporting events.

There are too many people out there that believe that the simple fact that they bought a ticket allows them to yell whatever they want at a person just because they don’t like the colors of their jersey. Some of those things they say? They’re vile. They would get you fired if you said them in your office and beaten up if you said them to the wrong person.

Why is that OK?

Why do we allow people to turn into cretins when they’re rooting for a sports team? Two hours before Smart went into the stands, an Arizona State fan spit on Oregon players and coaches after a win. How long before this kind of behavior truly does become unacceptable.

Marcus Smart is going to pay the price for his reaction, but that doesn’t mean that what he did was unwarranted.

  1. fnc111 - Feb 9, 2014 at 3:52 AM

    Haymakers? You obviously have zero self control.

  2. leafsfan9381 - Feb 9, 2014 at 4:20 AM

    Good article. If the fan did use the n word he should be banned from all games and he’s lucky he didn’t get knocked out!

  3. onbucky96 - Feb 9, 2014 at 5:39 AM

    Smart needs a suspension and anger management councling. As far as Orr, if he did utter the N word, he can’t be at games. In college, they call it Personna Non Grata. Stay away, not welcome, do not enter, arrest/terminate on sight.

  4. cdawg1969 - Feb 9, 2014 at 7:16 AM

    I wasn’t there, so no, I don’t “know” what was said, but there is a woman behind this older man who doesn’t react in any way as though the n-word was thrown out there. You would think that if that happened, she would have reacted somehow. It’s just another excuse for this hot headed player who can’t handle the losses piling up. He should have gone pro last year.

    • osuintx - Feb 9, 2014 at 11:24 PM

      It is Lubbock. I have been to Lubbock many times and because she did not react does not mean anything.

    • edbrowndesign - Feb 14, 2014 at 8:23 PM

      I’m sure you wouldn’t have had much a reaction either. Lets all be real not much has changed in the history of this country and the fact the the leader of this country is black is not sitting well with the haters.

  5. raiderufan - Feb 9, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    I thought the same thing about the woman behind him but I was at a father/daughter dance last and if the dude in front of me yelled something forward I wouldnt have heard it….just imagine in a crowd that large that was so excited they stormed the court….I’m just saying that it is entirely possible she was to excited to notice or hear. His demeanor while sitting went from dissapointment in not blocking the shot to offended real quick.

  6. freerayray52 - Feb 9, 2014 at 8:32 AM

    I highly doubt that Orr said the ‘n-word’. No one around him reacted to anything said, and he is a fan of college hoops. Hard to be a racist and a fan of hoops. It looked like somebody touched smart while he was down and that’s what smart reacted to. Let’s not make Orr the enemy until someone around him confirms what was said.

    • jjpt4540 - Feb 9, 2014 at 9:50 AM

      Ask Adolph Rupp about be a racist and coach. So bei g a fan and racist is possible.

      • dinofrank60 - Feb 9, 2014 at 2:33 PM

        Ding!!!

      • mackcarrington - Feb 9, 2014 at 3:47 PM

        @jjpt4540:
        I have to cut Adolph Rupp a little slack. I once believed him to be a racist. Because of that I did a little research about him.
        He tried to recruit Wes Unseld and Butch Beard to Kentucky. Neither of them wanted to be the first black player at Kentucky. Rupp didn’t do a lot of recruiting personally, but he did with Butch Beard. Reportedly Beard’s mother asked him point blank, “What are you going to do to protect my son?”. Rupp didn’t have an answer that was acceptable, so they turned him down. From my understanding it was more the SEC that didn’t want black players.
        Rupp eventually recruited a 7 footer named Thomas Payne, who was the first black player at Kentucky, and he ended up raping a girl.

    • edbrowndesign - Feb 14, 2014 at 8:30 PM

      Listening to the over all opinion of some people I wouldn’t be surprised if mattered what he said anyway. I’m sure that word gets tossed around frequently around certain people in the confides of there own. Why is it that blacks isn’t shocked at all that it’s possible but just about all whites are quick to say he didn’t say it. I since a pattern that cant be dismissed.

  7. jpat2424 - Feb 9, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    Agreed

  8. djlexluger - Feb 9, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    He said something I can’t say it was a racial slur, but from YouTube videos I’ve seen of this “superfan” he’s hardly innocent, and as for the lady next to him pointing she probably didn’t see any error in what he was doing.

  9. eagles512 - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    Orr seems like an idiot but just because Smart is yelling that he called him that doesn’t mean he did. He could have 1) misheard him or 2) realized what he did and said that to make his response understandable. But if Orr did say it, I’m glad he’ll be publicly humiliated.

    • edbrowndesign - Feb 14, 2014 at 8:34 PM

      Why is it so unlikely that he didn’t say a racial slur? Why do some people still believe that racist don’t exist. Is this really the case or is it simply denial.

  10. dred1889 - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    Still doesn’t matter if your Smart. It was an immature act by a player that needs to grow up a lot between now and whenever he decides to leave school. As a fellow black athlete, I never played in college, your going to hear the N-Word, it’s a sad reality but your never gunna escape it. This is not the first time he’s heard the word, and if he has wishes of playing professionally it surely won’t be the last. I respect the article Rob, but I also respect the racial issue that you had to be careful for when writing it as well. Smart acted like a child and it was unacceptable, and there should be no excuse about “he doesn’t handle loosing well”. Show me a competitor that likes to loose? Now the “super fan” should be looked at and have his actions reviewed, but Smart is old enough and has dealt with racial issues before to know that is never acceptable behavior.

  11. sportfan2 - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    Smart is not so, he should have been removed from game forthwith.

  12. ebrownwareagle - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    @dred1889

    I Played in college and The “N” word is something I WAS NEVER called! And I went to school in the state of ALABAMA! But as Usual Old White Racism still exist. And pretty much like Days of old your told from White America. Just Deal with it and get over it. Yet as a RACE has Never had one Adverse day Day due to Suppression from Another Race in this country as a WHOLE! You gotta do better Americans.

  13. greej1938l - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    The jack wagon of a fan had to say something rather offensive. I agree we don’t know the whole story yet

  14. dirtydavid4 - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    unless there is audio of what was really said its to easy for smart to claim it was racial if orr yelled what smart claimed he yelled the black lady behind orr had no reaction to it if smart could hear a supposed slur u think she would have heard the samething

  15. drcoctocin - Feb 9, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    The author of this article is an idiot. Every student-athlete is competitive to a fault…that’s why they play the game, right? But being competitive, along with five straight losses and bad play are NOT good excuses for shoving a fan. The Big 12 needs to suspend him for the rest of the season (sorry Ok St fans, but they do). Anything less sets a very bad example.

  16. drcoctocin - Feb 9, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    This author is an idiot, of course his actions were unwarranted. Being competitive, bad play and 5 straight losses are NOT good excuses for shoving a fan. The big 12 needs to suspend him for the rest of the season.

  17. male101 - Feb 9, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    There was a black lady right in back of Orr and I did not see here react if Orr did call Smart the N-word. She should come forward to say what she heard

  18. tall4myage2013 - Feb 9, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    You want to know whats funny? As soon as I saw the incident last night, I knew what the defense was going to be. Even on ESPN they had Jay Bilas on and he kept saying “I’d like to know what the fan said…” which was instantly recognizable as code for “well if the fan said the “N-Word” then Smart’s actions,while not completely justified, might be understandable.

    So how it works now is that if you are black, and you do something wrong, all you have to do is claim the dreaded “N-Word” was used and at least some people will rush to your defense, and more will be fine with a slap on the wrist. You can scream (Kevin Garnett, I’m looking your way) that someone has relations with their mother all day long. Hell, some people will even claim that’s fine, its part of your culture to talk like that. But let a white guy be accused of that word and all retaliations are fine in some minds, and understandable in others.

    Black people used to get attacked by dogs or fire hosed, or beaten simply for crossing a bridge or sitting at a lunch counter. Now, we’re to believe that no self control can be expected if they think they hear a word? If that is the case, then we need to stop this faux admiration for MLK and all his non-violent talk, because the truth will be that the only time non-violence is embraced is when you think you can’t get away with violence.

    • jm91rs - Feb 9, 2014 at 2:13 PM

      Black people used to be okay with getting beaten so it’s not ok for them to get upset with an old white man shouting a profanity? If I understand your post correctly that’s what you’re saying. And if I understand it correctly I feel sorry for any African American you come across. Apparently you don’t like it, but the standards in America have changed since slavery, and it’s actually a good thing that using an offensive word is about the worst that a racist jerk can do these days.

      I don’t know what was said, we never will know, but your reasoning is sad

  19. jackvcr - Feb 9, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    Amazing how many excuses you conjure up for Marcus Smart. NOBODY heard the spectator use the N word. Nobody. All this racial horse crap that immediately starts spewing. Let’s all justify the stupid thing Smart did by saying the other guy must have used the dreaded N word. What a bunch of intellectual weaklings you are.

  20. shadowshand - Feb 9, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    cdawg1969

    ” …there is a woman behind this older man who doesn’t react in any way as though the n-word was thrown out there. You would think that if that happened, she would have reacted somehow.” Unless she was with him. And like him.

  21. shadowshand - Feb 9, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    ESPN apparently has video of this old, fat, white, never-could-play-anything knucklehead (apologies to Michael Wilbon) giving the finger to a Texas A&M payer previously. The only thing he probably has, based on where the seats are, is a bit of money. Sound and looks like he’s a real credit to TTU.

  22. fnc111 - Feb 9, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    Fatty cakes Jeff Orr needs to get in the boxing ring with George Zimmerman. Talk about a ratings bonanza.

  23. tipstopten - Feb 9, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    West Texas can be sorta KKK

  24. skybox22blog - Feb 9, 2014 at 2:27 PM

    Seriously, my God. Anyone with half a brain can clearly see the “old white guy” say ” sorry about that.” If he was racist and used the n-word like most people want to think he did, he wouldn’t apologize. He probably accidently stepped on his hand or something. Geez

  25. dinofrank60 - Feb 9, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    What amazes me is that fans can get away with saying and doing stuff. And why does an adult bother with talking to a college kid at a game anyway?

  26. jbaxt - Feb 9, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    Why does anyone presume a racial slur? Because a hot head went after a 60 year old man? How about this kid just realize that they got beat and not act like a fool? Stop making excuse for the player. You’re at an opponents stadium, you’ve got to keep your composure, winning or losing. Get the kid a pacifier and accept responsibility for his poor play.

  27. onlyoneleft - Feb 9, 2014 at 4:29 PM

    Ban the fan from games. Suspend Smart for the remainder of the year. These idiots have got to learn to control their emotions.

  28. musketmaniac - Feb 9, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    sad, obviously fans heckle wanting to make contributions to the game. And no matter who is to blame, suspension is critical here. from what I read an hour ago it looks like they may make an arrest. that should have happened immediately afterwards.

  29. mcmuskie79 - Feb 9, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    When Smart shoved the fan, he was immediately in the wrong. If something was said, then Smart needs to let his coaching staff know & have them get right to the Tech Staff to have it handled right away.

  30. provguard - Feb 9, 2014 at 6:58 PM

    What did the fat white guy really say? I read what Smart said, but I find it difficult to believe a grown educated man would use that word amongst so many blacks… For some reason I believe that Smart was out of control and used the race card to bail himself out. If I am wrong, I truly apologize to Smart and the Orr guy should be banished from the Tech games for a while…

  31. musketmaniac - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    reverse racism, lawsuit. smart realized what an idiot he is, and thought N….. would get him out of it. This can’t be where is the justice for the fan. America was to quick to label him a fat old white racist. Newer videos prove that he yelled piece of crap. he manned up for it. Smart has opened a can of worms with his false statements.

  32. kidderjeffrey - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:27 PM

    Interesting…..#1. Video with sound has been examined, and the fan said “piece of crap’, not n*****.
    #2. If he called him the bastard son of a cross-eyed mule, it’s STILL not justification for going into the stands after a fan. #3. From the tone of the article, the fact that the author was ready to condemn the fan for saying n***** before it was even confirmed that he had said that, and the fact that the author felt the need to point out that it was a ‘fat white guy’ who said it, as if it would be more acceptable if he were black, I came to the conclusion that the author is black……am I wrong? And, if this is the case, the author needs to examine his own prejudices before he starts pointing a finger at someone else.

    • kidderjeffrey - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:39 PM

      Oops, just looked up Dauster….I was wrong. Thought I detected some racial prejudice in the reporting, but I jumped to a conclusion this time. Aside from that, I stand by the rest……

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